On Monday 27th May the roads and lanes leading to Nottingham were unusually busy. Crowds of people were making their way towards High Pavement, location of Shire Hall, also known as County Hall. It was located in one of the oldest parts of Nottingham , an area with a history that could be traced back to Saxon times. Here stood a large imposing stone building that resembled a Greek temple. It was Nottingham’s Court House, Gaol and contained a police office. It also served as Nottingham’s place of public execution. The building had stood since 1770 but had replaced an original structure. The old courthouse was replaced following an accident in 1724. In that year a courthouse floor had collapsed tipping all present into the cellars below.
The cellars contained a number of cells or lock-ups and in one, a prisoner was being made ready. Willliam Saville had spent the weekend in the Shire Hall Gaol and he was now climbing a long and dark flight of steps. The steps twisted and turned and then Saville found himself in a dock and with a large room in front of him. Unaccustomed to the strong light flooding in from the large windows, he blinked quickly. This was the first daylight he had seen since his incarceration here on Friday evening. As his eyes became accustomed to the bright light¸he took in the scene. To his left were seated the men of the jury, all looking intently at him. In the centre was a large wooden chair, currently unoccupied. To the right were seats and benches and another dock not unlike the one he stood in. A small group of men were seated near him and to the right. Hearing a commotion behind him he turned round and looked up. A gallery full of spectators stared down and back at him. The sound of muted banging and shuffling made him spin around. All in the court were now standing as the Coroner made his entrance and sat down in the wooden chair almost opposite Saville. It was precisely eleven o clock and the Inquest adjourned at Colwick was about to resume.
Christopher Swann opened proceedings by reminding all present that this was a Coroner’s Court. The purpose was to identify the victims, determine the cause of death and to determine whether the prisoner should be committed to trial in connection with the deaths. He reminded the prisoner that he was at liberty to ask questions of any of the witnesses. He turned to the Jury and began to call out their names, starting with the Foreman. Each man answered his name. The first witness was then called from below. Anne Freer, wife of James Freer, a Framework Knitter and resident of Poplar Square Nottingham was brought into court. After being duly sworn in her deposition was read out by the jury as she was unable to read it herself.
“I live in Poplar Square,Nottingham and saw Ann Saville last Tuesday morning at eleven o’clock or nearly that time in Manvers Street, very near to Roman cement works. She was going towards Colwick. She had a man and three children with her. I have known the deceased woman nearly fifteen years. I had not followed them far I walked from ten to fifteen yards behind them. I saw the woman, she had one eye. I have not the least doubt but that it was Ann Saville that I met. Her name was Ann Ward before she was married.
As at Colwick the Coroner asked the prisoner if he wished to ask any questions and he declined to do so. The next witness to be called was John Brown, a milkman of North Street Sneinton. His deposition was also read out.
“I know Ann Saville quite well by sight. I have known her two or three years. I met her with the man whom I supposed was her husband walking on the road between Colwick Park Gates and the Lodge. They were in what we call Colwick Lane by the wall side. I was in a cart when I passed them, coming towards Sneinton. They were going towards Colwick. The man was walking first carrying a child. Mrs Saville had one girl by the hand walking after her and the other was going by itself.”
At this point the deposition was passed from juror to the Foreman who continued reading.
”I turned round to look at the woman as I knew she had only one eye. I have lived neighbour to them. When I first knew her they lived in Walker Street Sneinton.
The next witness to enter the box was John Allwood, a Lace maker of Poplar Square Nottingham. A different juror commenced reading his deposition.
On Tuesday morning I was coming from Colwick to Nottingham and met a man carrying a child. I believe it was a little boy with a hood. I didn’t notice the woman, she was walking behind with a child or two. I met them past the turn going down to Colwick. I have seen the spot where the children were murdered and it would be about two hundred yards off.
At this point the Coroner asked the witness to look around the room to see if he saw the same man Looking directly at the prisoner he said
“The prisoner is the man, he is the man.”
Another juror completed the deposition.
“I met them between the stile and the turn toward Colwick. They were walking very quick and I thought to myself they were going a-begging in consequence of him having chidren with him.”
The next witness was William Heathcote, a sinker maker, also living in Poplar Square. His deposition was read out.
“I have known the prisoner between three and four years. I saw him Tuesday evening last about ten to eight crossing over from the Hermitage to the Castle and Feathers, going in a direction to Pennyfoot stile coming from Sneinton. He was walking at a very brisk pace, it was raining very hard, he was not carrying anything.”
The Coroner asked the witness if he could see the man in the room.
“I have no doubt at all the prisoner is the man. It is a direct way from Colwick.”
The next witness was Robert Sutton, a framework knitter from Birch Row in New Radford. He was not present at the Colwick Inquest and he was asked by the Coroner to now give his testimony, to explain how he knew the prisoner and any other detail he wished to include. The Court clerk now carefully recorded his deposition.
I know William Saville, I see him in this room. I have known him for five months, I did not know his wife or children. He lodged with me from Christmas to the day he was apprehended. The first day he came I asked what he wanted lodgings for as I had heard he had a wife and children and he said he had not. He worked in a frame at my house. I settled with him every week. The last time I had a settlement with him was Saturday last but one. I paid him twelve shillings four-pence halfpenny. He did not work after that Saturday, he was moving the frame. The first week he lodged with me I found out he had a wife and children, I never learned it from the prisoner himself. He always denied it. I did see a woman come to my house on Monday. He slept with John Bamforth both in one bed. Saville did not go to bed when I went. I went to bed about ten o’clock. We left the key for him. I saw him on Tuesday morning, he got his breakfast between eight and nine o’clock. When he went out I did not see him take anything with him. I did not see him during the morning, passed by him between one and two o’clock in Chapel Bar going towards my house from the direction of Colwick. He was walking very quick. When he left he was wearing a dark surtout coat. I knew he wished to keep company with my sister. I never saw them together. I did not particularly notice the razor he shaved himself with, it was a black hafted one. I believe he had more than one razor, but I never saw more than one.
At this point the Coroner directed Constable Parr to produce the razor he had found at Colwick and asked the witness to look at it as Parr brought it to him. The witness replied.
“I have not seen the razor before”
The next witness called was Mary Sutton, wife of the previous witness. Having been sworn in she began her testimony.
“ I never knew from the prisoner himself that he had a wife and family. I have heard him deny that he had. On the Monday a woman called upon him about twelve o’clock. He did not say who it was. She had a little girl with her. When the woman came in she asked me whether William Saville worked here? I told her he did. I did not know the woman. I remarked that she had one eye. On the Monday evening I left a key for him in the window as he stayed out late. On Tuesday he breakfasted at home about eight o’clock. He went out after he had breakfast. He came again, I think between two and three o’clock. When he came in he appeared to be in liquor and drink and he had a pipe in his mouth. He asked me if any of the men were upstairs. I told him there were. He went up and brought two of them down with him and took them out with him. It was between two and three when they went out. Soon after he came in again and told me he wanted something to eat. He sent my little girl for eggs and bacon and I cooked them for him. He gave the girl some money, she gave him the change. He gave her a halfpenny for going. He sat down and ate all the eggs and bacon. He went out and I did not see him again.”
The next witness called was another Sutton. William Sutton was the son of Robert and Mary. In his testimony he explained that he knew Saville to have three razors, one of which he had never seen and which he kept in his box. He gave a full description of Saville’s clothing and described him as he last saw him. He was wearing a dark brown coat or surtout. It had been olive green but it was now a faded brown. Also a waistcoat with two rows of buttons and black trousers. William also noted that James Unwin could confirm that Saville had three razors.
So far all witnesses were new and had not given testimony at Colwick.. However all witnesses were required to attend a coroner’s inquest and also needed to stay in case they were called back to be re-examined. It was now time to recall a witness who had previously appeared at Colwick as she had more evidence to give. Lucy Wardle was then brought into court. Having been sworn in the Coroner asked her directly to talk about a handkerchief believed to have been in the possession of Ann Saville.
“I saw Mrs Saville with a handkerchief when she came in on the Monday night. It was a pocket hankerchief. She laid it on the table with something in it I do not know what was. It was a light coloured one with dark stripe crosses. I believe I should know it again if I were to see it.”
The Coroner directed Constable Parr to produce a handkerchief and show it to the witness.
“I believe the handkerchief now produced is the same one Mrs Saville had when she left my house on the Tuesday morning. She took away with her all the clothes she brought on the Monday night as well as the handkerchief. At about a quarter past one on the Tuesday the prisoner came to my house and puffed very much as if he was out of breath and could hardly get the first words out. He asked if she had been back. On the Tuesday morning the deceased woman came down the stairs and took breakfast after me. She made tea herself. She had some tea in packet out of which she used some and then put it back in the pocket. It was not an ounce of tea. I saw her put it in her pocket. There was reading on the paper. It appeared to be one of those printed papers that the grocers wrap the tea in. I did not see the name. I had heard her ask her husband for some money and he said he had none. I saw her on Monday night change a shilling of which she spent one halfpenny and I believe she had another or two wrapped in paper.”
The Coroner now began reading from a deposition taken that very morning with respect to new evidence gained when Constable Parr had examined the clothes removed from Ann Saville after the Friday inquest at Colwick.
“I saw Mrs Saville’s pocket after it was taken off at Colwick, it was not empty; a little comb was in it but not any sugar or tea or any money. The pocket was bloody, it was bloody on the outside or the entrance to the pocket but I cannot say how the blood got there.[i]
This last piece of testimony caused a ripple of excitement in the gallery and a nodding of heads among the newspaper men. It seemed now that evidence was being produced linking Saville to items found in his possession after the murders had been committed but which were previously the property of his wife.
The Coroner now asked the prisoner if he wanted to ask any questions of the witness. So far he had not troubled to do so. This time he chose to talk, though what he said was more of a statement than a question.
“ The handkerchief belongs to Mr Palmer of New Radford, he lent it to me on Saturday and if you enquire you will find he is the owner of it.”
TO BE CONTINUED
Copyright@Michael Sheridan 2013 ALL Rights Reserved
[i] Nottingham Review Friday May 31st Page 5